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16 October 2014
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History from Headstones, Leckpatrick
Page 2

Paul Moore visits the graveyard at Leckpatrick near Strabane.

Leckpatrick Graveyard near Strabane, Co.Tyrone

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Page 2


Sinclair burial ground
Sinclair burial ground
Hamilton Thompson tells us about the Sinclair family connections in the graveyard. There is a square walled area with railings on top where the members of the Sinclair family are buried.

Within this enclosed area there are some quite large and ornate memorials, some of which are actually set into the walls. The Rev. John Sinclair (who died in 1702) is buried here.



Skull & Cross-bones - examples of Mortality Symbols
Skull & Crossbones

Here at Leckpatrick, as with other graveyards we’ve visited in this special series, there are mortality symbols carved into the stones. These were put here to remind others of their own mortality and to prepare themselves for death.

William describes some of these: A skull and cross-bones, a bell (bells were rung at funerals) an open book (representing the Bible) crossed spades. These are assumed to represent the tools of the gravedigger. Here also can be found the only example in Ulster of a tree with a serpent wrapped around it. This represents the “fall of man” from the book of Genesis.

Of all of the graveyards visited throughout this particular series, Leckpatrick has the oldest dated headstone. It’s very probably the oldest in Ulster. On it is carved a coat of arms, a hand bearing a sword and a Celtic cross. The stone bears the inscription “To the memory of John Magee who died in 1617”. In the 1650s, one David Magee, presumed to be John’s son was the owner of Holyhill House. It was the Magees who sold it to the Sinclairs around 1683.


Audio Clip 4: The oldest dated headstone in N.I. ?



Paul Moore speaks next to Joan Donnell and Johnny Dooher .

Joan is involved in a local project installing signage and interpretive boards around the area including the graveyard. She feels it’s very important to inform people of the historic significance of what they can see here. She says that this graveyard is a place which, due to its location, people drive past and don’t even notice. Her hope is that, by raising awareness, more people might stop and take a look into the graveyard and perhaps appreciate some of the history that’s to be found here. Joan herself has relatives buried here at Leckpatrick and makes the point that burials are still taking place here and many of the graves are still being visited. This is evidenced by recent flowers and wreaths that can be seen. Joan says that the graveyard is not just a historical monument but a part of the present day community too.

Johnny Dooher talks about the Catholic burials that took place here up until the mid 1800s One example he quotes is that of Father Tom Christie, originally from Glenmornan. He was the Parish Priest here at Leckpatrick and he died of a fever in 1827. It’s thought that by the 1840s the Catholic churches had made their own arrangements for burials and that’s why they appear to have stopped here at that time.

William Roulston notes that, surprisingly, there are actually very few clergymen buried here at Leckpatrick. There’s evidence that some memorials have been moved from this place to the current Church of Ireland where a few memorials to clergy can be seen. This is the case for Rev. John Sinclair.


The Abercorn Chapel
The Abercorn Chapel
The Hamilton Abercorn burial place, known locally as “The Abercorn Chapel”, exhibits an unusual roof-less building comprising of just four walls, measuring about 20 x 10 feet.

Although it seems reasonable to assume that it once had a roof, William suggests that this structure, which may well be unique in Ireland, is an example of the kind of funeral monument that is found in parts of Scotland.



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